OT--Neighbors' trashy yards---WWYD?

joaniepoanieMay 24, 2013

I have lived in the same typcial tract neighborhood for almost 30 years...no HOA. While none of our houses would be on the cover of H&G, most of us keep the front looking decent--maintain the beds, keep the lawn mowed, do needed painting of front doors, shutters, etc..But the two worst offenders are directly across the street from me and I am sick of looking at these eyesores...one in particular. My one neighbor is a widow but has grown sons living there who mow the law occasionally and that's about it. In 30 years, not one ounce of fertilizer..and the original builder bushes which are so overgrown she has about a 12" wide path leading to the front door. Nancy was never much of a housekeeper either---a slew of kids---smoked like fiend--cabinet doors falling off...you get the picture...every neigborhood has a Nancy. I'm guessing she still has the same builder grade carpet that came with the house. Now that the kids are grown, I talk to her once or twice a year if we catch each other outside. Neigbor two---he's retired, she isnt...no kids. They are hoarders....they had to replace garage doors 2 years ago and couldnt get everything back in..so for 2 years an old, rusted metal porch settee had been sitting in their side yard in direct view of our driveway. It now has grass growing up through it with a blue tarp thrown over it which never stays on. In front of it is a big mound of dirt where he took out bushes several years ago. It has leftover stalks from the bushes and weeds sticking up outof the mound. On top of this, they have had an RV in their driveway for 25 years that they have taken out maybe 4-5 times in the 25 years.Neither neighbor has painted or replaced their shutters in 30 years, they are old and faded.

While they have a nice view because we and our adjoining neigbors maintain our exteriors, we have to look at dumps! Not to mention dragging down the neighborhood and property values. We almost sold and moved 15 years ago....now I am regretting we didnt. I am not one for confrontation.....how would you handle this? Anonymous letter? I get that Nancy just doesnt give a darn what her house looks like inside or out...and if she were there alone I might understand...but she has grown sons who are quite capable of trimming bushes, etc..Retiree spends hours putting up Halloween and Christmas decorations, so he could certainly take care of his yard as well.

Thanks for letting me vent...all suggestions welcome!

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Plant a hedge so I didn't see it. It's not my yard, it's not my business.

(This is why I could never live with an HOA).

My town considered a blight law. It was emphatically voted down by the voters. This is the land of the free, right?

But I appreciate YMMV.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 1:19PM
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joanie, I feel your pain. It's bad enough having these properties in your immediate neighborhood, but having to look directly at them is even worse. In my town (SF Bay Area), there's an ordinance prohibiting storing an RV in your driveway. Yay! If Nancy's sons haven't helped with the maintenance, sounds like they're part of the problem. What do the other neighbors think? Have you talked to your local Planning/Zoning or Community Development to investigate the nuisance ordinances?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 1:24PM
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Call your municipality's code enforcement office. In my town, they will make contact with the homeowner and work towards resolution of garbage and junk visible from the outside, but not make you trim back your overgrown landscape. The interior of homes is rarely ever addressed. There is little else government can do on a home owned by the occupant. In speaking to my code enforcement office many times, the hoarding problem is growing at an alarming rate across the country. Our officer has attended national workshops for local governments on the hot topic of hoarding and cleanup.

I have a secret. My mother is one of the worst hoarders you've ever seen. Ever watch the hoarder shows? She's as bad as the very worst they film. Currently she has no working plumbing in the house except a trickle of water in the master bath. (She lives on a small area of the master bed, which she can barely reach, in a 2500 sq ft house.). There may be working plumbing the kitchen, but she hasn't been able to get to the kitchen for at least 10 years to really know. She refuses to even talk about her house with any of her kids. Our code enforcement office can do nothing.

Take it from me, if your neighbors are hoarders, there is absolutely nothing you as a fellow neighbor can do to change their behavior. Getting a hoarder to even admit they have a problem, let alone get treatment to deal with it, almost never happens even when gracefully supported by immediate family members. It is an extremely difficult mental health issue to handle. Hopefully, with new research being conducted in various parts of the country, some sort of better treatment approach to hoarders might be developed.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 1:37PM
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Since they don't care, I think the only thing you can do is call the township. Here, there is no HOA, but the township does require properties be reasonably maintained. Junk and overgrowth would be cited. Unsightly and can attract rodents. Sometimes things can be a fire and safety hazard too.

You have no authority to ask them to clean their property up, so approaching them yourself could (and often does) simply result in conflict, which would not accomplish anything and only make things worse.

I feel your pain. It is your business because it affects you. It also affects property values and sales so is everyone's concern.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 2:04PM
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With older people like this, either help them out, or MYOB. Or move into a neighborhood with a HOA.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 2:08PM
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We know someone who's often out garage-saling and has clearly passed the cluttered home stage. She seems as happy as most, so of the problems one could have I guess I'd choose that one for myself, or at least near the top. I already do expect to be the old lady whose garden has grown into a jungle and puts food out for the raccoons.

Joanpoanie, I'm not the old lady with foxes living under my house yet, so you have my sympathy. In that situation, unless I had no front yard at all, I would plant myself a view out front. Heck, I've done that regardless of who lived across the street. I'm not fond of driveways and parked cars, and my before-I-gave-it-its-freedom garden just might be something like this (forget the flowers; it's about the shrubs and trees). There are houses out there.

Traditional Landscape by Warwick Landscape Architect Summerset Gardens/Joe Weuste

or this

Traditional Landscape by Chadds Ford Landscape Architect Wallace Landscape Associates

I consider this view 100% improvement. :)

Traditional Kitchen by Santa Cruz Media And Blogs Shannon Malone

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 2:30PM
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I'm sorry this sounds harsh, but unless there is actually a city/county code violation, it's none of your business. Everyone has a right to maintain their property in the manner they choose, within the code of the law. You can either try to plant your garden such that you do not have to see theirs or you can move or you can live with it.

The only other thing I can think to suggest is that perhaps you could make an effort to befriend these neighbors and find a way to offer to help with their gardens. Gardening is probably not a priority for them and maybe they do the best they can with the time, money, and abilities they have.

The "hoarders" probably love old things and maybe have too many projects to manage. If they've attempted to cover the settee, perhaps they hope to work on it someday and that "someday" keeps getting pushed back. If you befriended them, perhaps you could strike up a conversation ("Hi neighbor. I saw your cute vintage settee out there. What are your plans with it? It looks like a fun project. Would you like some help you with it?") and see what you could do to help them turn it into some of the cute finds that people post here. Regarding the RV, I guess I'd say be thankful it's not parked on the lawn or in the street. An RV is for recreation, and not everyone gets to spend as much time vacationing as they want. Perhaps they're waiting until she retires to make full use of it.

As for Nancy's overgrown garden, that's tough. Not everyone wants a trim proper traditional garden. I personally like plants to grown naturally and enjoy full foliage in the natural shape. It sounds like Nancy's sons are comfortable doing just the bare minimum, so I doubt you're going to change that. Maybe she doesn't worry about the walkway to her door because no one ever visits.

My garden is rarely as beautiful and put together as some of the pictures I see posted here (including those lovely pictures from rosie). I spend a fair amount of time gardening each year. But we both work full time and spend a lot of our spare time working on projects inside of the house or on other hobbies. Most of my neighbors are retired or have at least one spouse that stays at home and have much more time for gardening. We waited many years after we purchased the house to paint the faded siding due to the cost. Right this very moment my front flowerbeds are overgrown with weeds because I've been dedicating my spare time to working on a back yard project that needs to be finished before it's too late this year to plant. I prefer organic gardening and with a garden that was never as well landscaped as it should have been, the weeds are invariably a challenge. I have areas of the yard that for years I have tried to plant that constantly die off and look sub-par. I can't afford to hire a professional landscaper or gardener to solve my problems, so I do the best I can. Maybe your neighbors are doing the best they can too.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:03PM
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You'd probably get some help on the Buying and Selling Homes forum - this type of thing comes up once in a while and there are folks who have dealt with neighbors on there.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:26PM
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I have to agree with pricklypearcactus - unless they're violating a city ordinance there's nothing you can do - nor should you be able to - it's their private property - learn to live with it or move.

For those of you suggesting that people move to a place with an HOA, be careful what you ask for. Some HOAs are outrageous. There was a story in the news a few years ago about a couple that repainted their house the SAME COLOR and the HOA was demanding that they repaint it because their original color was no longer an approved color.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:40PM
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GreenDesigns...these are not old, infirm people who can't do the work, then I would of course understand, and help out. They are also not poor and unable to afford at least some maintenance work. The guy with the old rusted settee spends hours putting up Xmas and Halloween decorations...on ladders, etc...adding more each year.

I cannot block the view as they are directly across the street...I would have to put an 8' fence across my driveway and entire front lawn to block the view. And why should I have to move? And even if I wanted to....how the heck am I gonna sell my house when prospective buyers take a gander across the street? Isn't it just common courtesy to keep your front exterior looking decent and to protect property values?

I dont care if they are hoarders or what their interiors look like...I just don't want to have to look at their crap sitting on the front lawn and mounds of dirt.

I know I can't FORCE them to do anything....just wanted some ideas on how to gently nudge some action....I think both parties would be thoroughly insulted if I offered to help them clean up their yards.

I will look into the county codes.....but don't have much hope.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The only possible code violation would be the trash to not yet treasure being stored on grass rather than on a paved surface. No one mandates people to have pretty lawns and shrubs, unless you live in a subdivision with a HOA. Be careful what you wish for there!

You've lived there 30 years, and presumably these people have also lived there long term as well, enjoying their property in the manner that they wish to enjoy it. Which isn't the same as you. It's way too late to begin any dialogue about property care issues at this point. Vent all you want, and leave well enough alone since there aren't any laws being broken. Only you control your happiness, or lack thereof. Choose to let it go.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 4:10PM
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I have a neighbor who collects junk cars and has an overgrown yard and house in desperate need of repair. We call the town, they come and talk to homeowners and not much changes. The direct neighbors complain of a horrible smell. Anyway, I can relate.

Would it be possible to invite the whole block over for coffee and cake (or wine and cheese) and introduce a plan to beautify your block with a particular color theme for annuals? Maybe make it a competion where everyone puts $20 in a bucket and the winner gets all the cash or cash is used to buy a gift card? You could joke with those who's property is an eyesoar that if they put half as much effort into curb appeal as they do holiday lights, they'll surely win.

I know this wouldn't work with our hermit / car hoarding neighbor, but that's my idea for you.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 4:52PM
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Holly- Kay

I truly understand your dilema but honestly it is their property to maintain or not maintain accordingly. It sounds like the sons don't give a hoot because the mother doesn't give a hoot and that isn't something you can change.

Living across from that disorder would be enough to drive me around the bend also but the best you can do is put hedges and beautiful landscaping on your property to keep you from having to see that horrible mess!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 4:54PM
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Again, be careful what you ask for. I'm full of stories today :-) A few years ago in a town in MA someone with an eyesore of a house refused to paint it. The neighbors took him to court and the judge ordered him to paint his house and he did - he painted his house to look like a dalmatian - white with black spots and a mouth around the doorway and eyes around two windows. The neighbors were furious and went back to court. The judge told them tough. He could order the man to paint the house but as long as there was nothing obscene, he couldn't dictate the style of the paint job.

You may be able to get the town to have them remove trash from the yard, but landscaping is most likely beyond their jurisdiction.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:04PM
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Looking through our township ordinances, there are all sorts of restrictions and building and property maintenance codes in place. Including this one. It's not uncommon in this area, so yours might have them in place too. This is a suburban community.

"Landscaping. Premises with landscaping and lawns, hedges and bushes shall be kept from becoming overgrown and unsightly where exposed to public view, so that they do not constitute a blighting factor to adjoining property."

Unless someone is way out in the country, property maintenance has a big effect on neighbors and the neighborhood because the houses are closely spaced. I think it's more like, if they aren't interested in living in a nice civilized neighborhood, then they should be the ones moving out to the country or to an area already in decline where things like that are the norm. There have to be some guidelines in place to keep a community from decay and peace between neighbors.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, May 24, 13 at 17:27

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:20PM
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Well, I sympathize even though I greatly prefer mixed neighborhoods with people of different backgrounds, ages, styles, ideas about maintenance even. LOTS of communities will not allow that degree of slovenliness and will act if called-- because it does injury to everyone by causing deterioration of whole neighborhoods, and even whole towns.

But you know, Joaniepoanie, if you were at all interested, view creation and editing is very doable. Go to one of your main windows with a salad plate, hold it in front of your face and move it forward until most of that property just disappears. That's what nothing more than a pretty, small tree planted out there where its canopy will be that size will do for you.

Leave it at that, or back it with a grouping loosely placed low to medium evergreen shrubs (just one variety will do nicely) arcing around prettily and you're no longer looking at that house. Even while your plantings are small your eye will tend to notice them in the foreground and often not pass on at all. Stick some daffodils and pansies in the little bays created by the shrub placement.

It's hard to find a quick picture that isn't someone showing off their gorgeous garden, but here, note just what the size of the tree itself does.

Traditional Landscape

Take too long to grow? Grab your salad plate again, go to the window... No, actually, carry the pretty small tree in its can close enough to your window that it's already starting to block out the view and give you something nicer to focus your eyes on. Plant it there. As it grows, limb it up so you're looking out from the shelter of its canopy from the shelter of your home behind it. That house across the street is going to feel significantly farther away than it actually is and it's top half will be hidden. While you're at it, maybe you've edited the power lines out of your view as well.

Modern Landscape by Lewisville Landscape Architect Arrington Landscape Architecture

Not that you'll see much of the bottom of the property if you've also planted a clump of shrubs that ranges only 3 to 4 feet tall, perhaps anchored by a second small tree that was placed to block something else you don't want to look at, maybe from the kitchen window. :) Especially if you have a statue or birdbath in front of the shrubs that grabs the eye before it ever gets out of the yard. Or you could skip the shrubs, etc., and just invest in a decorative fence. The idea isn't to create a solid wall but to give the eye plenty to look at in your yard.


That's your window, and the tree and fence are actually out by the edge of your property. And, yes, it's still ridiculously gorgeous, and I couldn't find a quick picture looking out from inside, but go drive around residential neighborhoods that have deliberate landscaping. You'll see plenty of view editing, and this is how they do it.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:35PM
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Weissman, I like your judge. That's not a cautionary tale to me, that's protecting individual freedom while fighting neighborhood blight. IMO, a lot more neighborhoods suffer from an excess of communal proper taste than too much individuality. :)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:42PM
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I agree with snookums2. My town and the adjoining city have those ordinances. For example, in my town, if the grass is 8" high, you can ask the town to send an anonymous "friendly neighbor" letter. 8" is pretty liberal, if you ask me. If you miss a mowing or two, it might get to 6", but 8" takes some real negligence.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 5:45PM
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I am so sorry...that would drive me insane! That is why I absolutely love having an HOA...I gladly give up a small touch of "freedom" re:my yard in order to be protected from that. I agree with planting more trees...the certainly couldn't hurt.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:00PM
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My neighbor across the road bought a huge trailer and parked it in such a way that it filled my view from the living room window. We put up lattice and planted tall shrubs in front of the lattice - problem taken care of and we were still able to maintain a friendship. The trailer sat there for several years before they moved. The next owner had a horse trailer and parked it - yup, in the same spot. By now our shrubs have pretty much filled in nicely. I don't care what they park there - I solved the problem and am so glad I did without creating a stink about it. Live and let live is my motto.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:05PM
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It's pretty interesting how many people think we should just let our neighborhoods decline. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:12PM
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You can try different methods.

1) Have them see your view. Our neighbor had an abandoned car in the back yard. She came over for coffee one day and saw the view of the car from our kitchen. We said nothing but it was apparent she saw the car, after that she had the car removed.

2) We the same neighbor couldn't keep up her lawn anymore and her loser son wouldn't help, we started mowing it. We didn't ask, just did it. She was very grateful. So now, take a trim to the bushes, whatever needs to be done. If they ask what you are doing, say you thought their mower/whatever was broken and just wanted to help out.

3) Call the town. Repeat. Again. Regarding the vacant house across the street, I talk to one neighbor on the side and we both will repeatedly call the town. They will then send someone out to now it. This has worked with other issues. Talk to all your other neighbors and have everyone start calling on the same day. We had a problem with the post office once and had everyone call on the same day. Issue was immediately taken care of.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:35PM
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>>So now, take a trim to the bushes, whatever needs to be >>done. If they ask what you are doing, say you thought their >>mower/whatever was broken and just wanted to help out.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:42PM
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I hate HOAs and am so glad there are none here. I always used to say ironically when we lived in Houston, that "You can't tell a Texan how many or what kind of guns he can have, or where he can carry them, but it is perfectly OK to tell a Texan what colour he can paint his house."

I live in a 50yo upmarket neighbourhood where many of the homes have been upgraded, expanded, and renovated in ways that would never be allowed under HOA rules, and it has made our district considerably more diverse, attractive and desirable. A friend lived a few blocks away and used to complain about her next-door-neighbour, an elderly lady with hoarding tendencies and no landscaping abilities. Her house was an eyesore, inside and out. But the day came when she could no longer live alone and had to go into care. Her house was listed for sale, and it took a long time to move due to its condition. The new owner was a single mom who couldn't afford anything else. She invested several months of hard work, cleaned the place up, painted it, replaced the tacky covered deck in the back yard with a cedar one, and within a season, the house was as attractive as any others on the street. I guess we just respect each owner's right to manage his/her own property, and don't let the bad ones reflect on any one else's property or the community as a whole.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:46PM
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We just bought a house that was a neighborhood eyesore. We don't have the yard anywhere near how nice we want it, but the neighbors have told us it looks better now than it has in years, lol.

Reality though, to me, is that these people own the homes, if there are no town or code violations I think you are just asking for trouble if you approach them. If you are seriously thinking about moving then I think you could approach them explain that the condition of their yard decreases your homes value, and offer to help remedy the situation. Otherwise as others have said plant some trees and shrubs and try to live and let live.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:48PM
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Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Wishing you much serenity!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 6:56PM
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Well it may be tresspassing or "illegal" but you need to consider your area. Around here people are known for being very friendly. After a snow storm strangers from down the street may snowblow your driveway. Complete strangers will help you when needed. I've heard that other areas of the country are not like this. I don't want to live there.

When we had an issue with a slumlords property next to our rental in the city, the city code enforsement officer told us to just go over their and cut the small tree/bushes down (hurting our fence). While the city official said yes you are tresspassing but any attempt by the owner to have you charged would be laughed at. We cut the trees and bushes.

I personally would never live in a town that did not force people to take care of their property. I'm calling the town on tuesday about the vacant house across the street. The lawn needs mowing. They will send a crew right out.

Oh and when we bought our house one of neighbors immediately said they have tried to buy it to have it torn down as it was an eyesore. They told us that repeatedly until they realized we would keep up the property to their high standards.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 7:14PM
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Story time: A friend of a friend in CA trimmed her neighbor's tree in the middle of the night because the tree blocked her view of the coast and the branches from the tree supposedly overhung her property. The neighbor called the police and many legal issues and animosity ensued. I don't know how it was finally resolved.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 7:27PM
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I understand your need to vent and also understand your concerns and irritation at property that is dragging your values down. Not meaning to be harsh but stop and think a second. These folks may be doing the best they can. Aside from that, one person's junk is another's treasure. And it's not for us to judge or demand their property be kept to our standards. I've had a similar situation in my past and my house was in a community with a HOA. I went to the HOA time and time again but never got results. Bottom line, they couldn't afford to pay the legal fees to do anything about the drug use and slum condition of the property. So I sold my house, and vowed to never live in a community again. Ever since, I've had acreage and made sure to place my house when building where no neighbors are visible. To me life is too short to worry about your neighbors houses or to be aggravated with them. And while you may not be able to afford to sell and buy a lot of land, you can take that into consideration when looking to try to get as much privacy and distance between you and neighbors as possible. You do have to realize some sacrifice but believe me it's worth it. Good luck to you in your decisions and choice. And I do sincerely mean that.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 8:11PM
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joaniepoanie-We live next to 'that' house too...and we just put ours on the market. The house has been foreclosed on twice, current owners have junk piled under their deck. 3 families have lived there since it was built and none of them took care of it. The current neighbor mow's sometimes but never the whole yard at once (it's ridiculous - .5 acre, come on). It's very frustrating as I am sure it brings our property value down and we live in a subdivision WITH an HOA. It has never been consistently enforced so there it sits. Plenty have complained about it and sometimes they get to it but never for long.

When the house first went up it was placed oddly on the lot which also was a frustration so we immediately planted trees for privacy as the back of their house is just feet from the side of our back yard and they have this huge open side yard that looks like a field most of the time. Most people actually think it's a vacant lot that no one has built on. :/

Anyhow - fast forward about 12 years and they have grown nicely to where you can't see much of the house while in the back yard. It's a double edged sword as we are selling though as while it has preserved the view it also can be seen as higher maintenance due to pruning. Sigh, I'd rather have that than look at their junk any day though!

So there are options for sure but I can relate to your disappointment. I am all for diverse landscaping etc but regular maintenance (mowing) in a neighborhood setting with houses fairly close together is not too much to ask, IMO; especially when the condition of your neighbors property directly correlates to the value of your own.

We are moving out/away from an HOA on a wooded lot and looking forward to a little more space, a little more privacy and unfortunately along with that a LOT more mosquitoes! Pluses and minuses to everything I guess!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!


    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 8:37PM
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1. Take your daily multivitamins and outlive them.
2. Hope for more active future owners.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 8:43PM
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My parents lived next to an empty wooded lot for many years, but unfortunately never purchased it. It was great for us kids to play. Then one day someone bought it and put 3 single mobile homes on this 1 acre lot, and rented them out. My mom tried to fight it, but any codes for their neighborhood had expired (atleast I think that was the story). Years later, it's 3 dumps for rent over there. People are in and out, we don't feel safe having the grandchildren playing outside. The laws in their area have changed, but those rentals are now grandfathered in. I feel terrible for you. I'd plant to tallest row of shrubs, trees or something, and put a for sale sign in my front yard!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 10:26PM
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We bought THAT house. Complete with backyard dump (think trash bags, tires, mattresses, appliances covering 5 acres) and mismatched and missing siding. Piles of dirt from who knows where, knee high grass. I felt like I spent the first two years living here apologizing to everyone that lived in a 10 mile radius. We wanted it to look nice, but making the inside safe and liveable was where our time and money went. We just mowed the yard and left the persimmons to do their own thing. How would you like to live across the street from this? I guess the house had looked like this for about 7 years prior to us moving in.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:32AM
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agree with others. . .check city/county codes for the "letter of the law". . . even then, the code enforcement people can be slow to do something too quickly (err on the side of caution, I suppose). Re: the RV. . .again, check codes. Had a similar situation (yard/house was neat as a pin, but the owner threatened to "drop you in the yard" when one of the kids stepped about 2 ft inside his properlty line to retrieve a football). I explained to him that since he was so concerned about property rigthts/violations, I was sure he would want to move his 5th wheel since it was parked in violation of city code. Where I live the rear-end of the RV cannot extend past where the curb begins to curve to the street (it becomes an issue for neighbors on either side not being able to see up/down the street when backing out of their driveways). It took 3 consecutive monthly calls to the code enforcement people (they visited each time and explained the violation to him) and about another month for him to move his 5th wheel to storage when he was finally ticketed. . .but he did move it.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 10:43AM
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Our first house was on a street of modest, well-kept homes. Then, a guy moved in across the street from us and soon the house looked like the Munsters lived there. Then the house next door to us was bought by another family that didn't believe in yard work or house maintenance and parked a flatbed piled with junk on the side of his house and cars in the front yard. Within a couple years, owners that had always kept their yards well maintained in the past started letting things go. I think those two houses that were such eyesores brought everyone down and took away incentive to keep their own yards nice. We couldn't stand it - work hard all day and come home and look at the mess...we sold our house and moved where there is an HOA. I know some HOAs can be problematic, but I find ours very reasonable. Our old street is now pretty run down. Our current neighborhood looks as nice as when we moved in 15 years ago. I won't live in a house without an HOA now. I guess it's all what you can/can't tolerate. I sure feel for ya!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:27PM
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I feel for you too! No right or wrong answer. My sister has lots of junk in her backyard. She is one of those who thinks they will eventually use that broken so and so. Her neighbors wanted to sell their house and came over and asked them to please hide the junk as potential buyers look over and it is deterring people from buying the house. I have to add that her front looks fine with nice shrubbery and it the house looks clean and well maintained.
My sister and her DH put up a lattice structure that hid the junk from the neighbor's view. Problem solved.
I also moved into the "eyesore: on the block. Not as bad though as some have described. It seems the previous owner put up an ugly fence to spite her next door neighbor. She hardly never mowed the front yard until it was on the market. Inside, it was not abused but all original from the 50's.
Anytime we did anything, the neighbors would run over and compliment us. The fence is down, hurray! Sandblasting the ugly painted brick was great by them even though the dust got into their homes!
It's sad that other people can have such control over your well being and happiness.
One of the reasons we sold our second weekend home was because new owners came with lots of friends and relatives and would think nothing of working their was over to our dock because they liked sun and hers was shaded. Our backyard was fenced, so that deterred them. The owners reasoning was, "Feel free to come over to my side if you want shade!" They would also put tents up in the front yard to the over fill. They were nice people, who just liked to socialize in a different way than we did. But, their lifestyle gave no consideration of mine. Long story short, they bought our house and tore it down to have a bigger yard!
I hope you can find a compromise. What is especially annoying is that the sons, who don't care either. You can forgive an elderly person living alone.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:33PM
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This is an interesting subject, and I'll just throw my own story in, too. When we moved into the neighborhood, I pretty much thought the man across the street must be a hoarder. You know, the typical appliances in the driveway that never went away started creeping down the length of the house, the paint was chipped off the house and trim, lots of vehicles, etc. It was really an eyesore, especially for us across the street.

A neighbor who had been in the area a long time spoke to me about it. He said that man had been in the neighborhood for 50 years and had done a lot to help neighbors out over the years. He was elderly now. We concocted a scheme to offer to buy materials and paint his home for him. Like many elders (and Americans), he was fiercely independent so it was touchy how to approach it. Luckily, I was painting my own home at the time and we could chalk the materials up to left overs. In any case, the man was very grateful and allowed us to freshen up his house. Meanwhile, another neighbor took up moving and fertilizing his lawn.

Not so very long after, his adult son came to visit and realized his dad had advanced Altzheimers. (He was living with a relative, so we assumed his health was being taken care of). Adult son and his wife took over, taking care of dad and the disrepair found inside. Which is great, but I'll always wonder if we should have somehow known how bad things were and gotten his family involved somehow sooner. They are haunted by that question, too.

I glad we were able to help out and take a non-confrontational, cooperative approach. Not that it always works out, I know. Things have to be desperately bad for the city to get involved and even then, there's a lot of ethical and legal tension between concepts of privacy, automony and freedom on one hand and welfare and safety and the good of the whole on the other. Not unlike what you see with child protective services...

I came from a region in the country (small town Iowa) where the motto was "Do whatever you want, but do not disturb your neighbors". Here in Alaska, it seems a lot of people think they are homesteading even in an urban setting...

I consider home and yard upkeep to be part of my civic and community contribution. Taking care of my own postage stamp (which is about the size of my house and yard) is the least I can do. Wish everyone felt that way, but I also realize some who do are faced with barriers and don't have the resources to do it. I hope that isn't me, someday.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:45PM
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Reminds me of when we were house hunting over 20 years ago. DH said make sure you really like the view on this side of the fenceline- you will never have control over what is on the other side. He is a wise man.

Lots of advice given to OP here, but my thought is, she has known (to some degree) these people for many years, so only she can guess which options suggested seem possible in this situation. I get the feeling there is really no relationship there and that may contribute to the problem. Reread debrak's posting about the junk car. It's surprising how a different angle can change one's perception about a view. Maybe if you befriended this woman and her sons a little (without bringing up yard maintenance) and had them over for a social occasion in your yard so they could really see what you see, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if their property improved. Not to your standards perhaps, but at least cleaned up. Once people feel like they are connected to their community, it won't feel like an "us vs. them" scenario. Heck, they may even ask for your help or advise.

Good luck with this, I really do understand how you feel, and how important it is to not create bad feelings between neighbors. Makes me so grateful to live where I do.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 1:33PM
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Now me, I'd be extremely surprised if deep-seated habits in a little group of people like Nancy's family changed after sitting across the street. It's not going to happen.

With them, I'd edit them out as best possible and count my blessings. Literally. As often as it takes. Which include the inoccasional mowing and shrubs that were left to grow instead of being replaced with patches of weedy dirt. There's also more than one way of being ugly, and tidy but barren, "low maintenance" yards can be depressing to look at too. Joanieponie, use their shrubbery as deep background to your own green?

The hoarders? That will only get worse and them older. Joanie doesn't sound as if she's up to getting their permission and carrying off their rubbish herself. Organizing a neighborhood project is something else that might be more of a burden, or not.

Fine ideas, the best ideas, but if they're just not a fit, calling the local government to see if cleanup of the external debris can be forced would be the next good thing to do.

The forces of change work on all neighborhoods everywhere all the time, and for most it takes effort to keep aging from turning into decline. Many, many neighborhoods owe their continued health to concerned people making it happen. And sad neighborhoods their decline to neighborhood sloth.

As an appraiser in the greater Los Angeles area (13 million+ back then), I'd recognize the level of vitality of a neighborhood as soon as I arrived. Socioeconomic level wasn't the key. The residents could be dirt poor, literally, with grandma out sweeping paint chips off the house into packed dirt and then sweeping that up tidily, but if the neighborhood was a healthy, good place to live it showed. It was in the air, and it was all about its residents agreeing that they wanted to keep it that way.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 2:52PM
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mrsmortarmixer and others who have bought 'that' house - each time it's been vacated we have been so hopeful that someone like YOU would be buying our neighbor's THAT house. :( It would be so refreshing to have someone move in that cared about their property. On the upside, they are fairly quiet.

Current neighbor has 3 mowers and yet doesn't USE them to mow. How do I know he has 3? He lines them up in his yard as if they are some sort of display. Ugh! How odd is that! I know they run because I've seen him drive the mower to the gas station up the street to buy something and then drive back home again. We did see his wife outside once trimming weeds or something with scissors???
It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round.

I think the HOA did talk to him about the yard display and soon enough they were moved into the garage...sitting idle.

I would much rather have them located where they are instead of being across the street from them. Our view from our home is actually pretty nice. It's more that you drive by it to turn into our driveway.

steph - awww. :( Poor guy, remind me of my Grandpa who would have never admitted to needing help or that his health was really all that bad (eventually he hired someone to mow but no one realized what the inside looked like - he was out of state from family and put up a good front that he was just fine). I think when it comes to the elderly and deteriorating ability it's a different story all together.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 2:57PM
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Hey maybe you could film it with the other neighbors and send it to DIY network's show Curb Appeal or Yard Crashers one of those shows where the neighbors get them a makeover.
Well, maybe it's at least worth a try!!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 4:03PM
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The worst thing you can do is send an ugly anonymous letter saying "everyone is talking about your bushes". A letter from the city is okay but secretly leaving a note for a neighbor from "mystery man" is not going to do anything. We've had some anonymous letter writing in my neighborhood. My friends received one. Its just going to make the person want to keep the status quo.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 4:11PM
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